Covid19 pandemic: Media mustn't add to the panic-demic
Covid-19 has spread to 142 countries, with the illness rightly termed as a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
By Vicky Kapur (From the Executive Editor's Desk)
Published: Mon 16 Mar 2020, 8:50 PM
It's all happening now. Sweeping restrictions on travel and advisories against congregations at public places, entertainment hotspots, and education institutes are now in place across the world. As at 5pm on March 15, besides China, where the novel coronavirus is said to have originated, there are two countries where the infection toll is now over 10,000: Italy (21,157) and Iran (12,729). The number of those infected in eight other nations is in thousands (but under 10k) while another 31 countries have seen infections in triple-digits. Covid-19 has spread to 142 countries, with the illness rightly termed as a pandemic by the World Health Organization.
In the UAE, the number remains safely under 100 and a proactively bold government response will ensure that the country and its residents are geared up to meet any contingency. Schools and universities have been ordered shut with e-learning protocols in place. Theme parks, cinemas, nightclubs, gyms, spas and massage parlours - places where individuals could have come in close contact with strangers - are being advised to suspend operations. Every care is being taken to sterilise public transport and areas where you and I may frequent, including shopping malls, supermarkets, and restaurants. The UAE is pulling out all the stops - including a massive Dh100 billion stimulus package - to offer operational, financial, and viable countermeasures to the virus.
However, if there is one thing that is spreading faster than the pandemic itself, it's the panic. And that's a global phenomenon, with reports of people indulging in panic buying, hoarding dry groceries and frozen food, even stocking up on, yes, toilet paper. This is where media ought to play its rightful role by being rational and publishing reports that are not just balanced, but also authentic and verified. In any exigency, there is always a best-case scenario and there is always a worst-case scenario. Good governance dictates that contingency plans are in place to face the worst-case scenario. But should media, having 'seen' an exigency plan, go ahead and publish it as an 'expected' outcome?
Unfortunately, a section of media is doing just that. In its endeavour to break news first, this section of media doesn't mind breaking the integrity of news. As a Khaleej Times reader you already know it, but we'd like to renew our resolve to always stick to the ethics of journalism, even in a post-truth world. It is our conscious decision to not report anything that we can't independently verify, however compelling the temptation may be to maximise page-views or offer you a so-called scoop. If it's in KT, it's verified.